Whether you’re planning for retirement or are considering an early leave from your job, here are five topics you may want to explore with a professional.
Continuing a career may be challenging for those who live with myasthenia gravis (MG), so proper retirement planning is important. If your MG symptoms are preventing you from doing your work, talk to your doctor about whether early retirement may be a good option for you.
“A person living with MG has likely already been told by their physician that they need to consider planning in advance for life after a career,” explained James Booth Burr Jr., a Michigan attorney, an expert in estate and elder law planning and a board member of the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation.
Getting advice from a professional—such as a financial advisor, a human resources professional, an insurance expert or your doctor—while planning for your future is one way that may help smooth your transition from work to retirement. Professionals knowledgeable about retirement may be able to help determine if you have some options that you haven’t considered yet.
Here are a few considerations you may want to explore with a professional when it comes to planning for retirement.
1. Setting a date and time frame for retirement
Whom to speak with: a human resources (HR) representative at your place of employment, doctor and/or financial advisor.
If your MG symptoms are preventing you from doing your work, you may want to consider retiring early. “For someone living with MG, it’s important to ask yourself, What am I going to do the day I retire? How will I fill my time? If you’re comfortable with how you answer these questions, it may help you decide if you’re ready for retirement,” James said. “Of course, your spouse or supporter who knows you and your lifestyle well can also offer their thoughts on the timing of retirement.”
If you feel that it isn’t time yet, there are other options to consider first, such as tapering your work hours or responsibilities to make it possible for you to continue working while living with MG.
You can speak to an HR representative at your place of employment about a date and timeline for retirement that’s specific to your current situation. Caitlin Golden, a VP of human resources, said that HR can help employees coordinate end dates of current health benefits (medical, dental and vision) and insurance plans with the start of Medicare coverage so employees won’t face gaps in coverage.
Caitlin suggests asking your human resources team some questions, such as:
- What if a dependent (such as my spouse) qualifies for Medicare before me?
- Do I have accrued savings for retirement, such as vacation time, 401(k) savings or HSA (health savings account) savings?
- Do I have a pension?
- Should I consider COBRA as a stopgap before Medicare coverage begins—and, if so, how would that work?
If your company plan offers early retirement as an option, they may be able to waive any associated penalty if it’s due to a medical condition like myasthenia gravis. Deciding when to start receiving retirement benefits is a personal decision, so you may find it helpful to speak with a financial professional about what is best for you or visit the Social Security Administration (SSA) website for more information.
2. Calculating annual costs of care
Whom to speak with: a financial advisor.
MG can be hard to predict, and symptoms may change over time. It may be helpful to talk to your doctor about MG medication and treatment costs, including medical services and equipment you may need. Having savings available in case of extra medical bills may be helpful.
You can also talk to your financial advisor about consolidating your finances, creating a budget that will meet your needs and calculating annual costs for care. When calculating costs, be sure to account for your retirement age, medical expenses and Social Security wages. If you currently have a 401(k) plan, most 401(k) providers have a retirement calculator available online, so they could tell you roughly how much money you should have saved at the time of retirement.
3. Disability and social security
Whom to speak with: a financial advisor and/or human resources representative at your place of employment.
Depending on your birth year, you may start receiving Social Security retirement benefits at a reduced amount. Visit the SSA website to see when you can qualify. If MG symptoms prevent you from working, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits as well. If you choose to apply and are approved, you’ll be eligible to receive a monthly stipend from the SSA. To find out more information or to see if you qualify, talk to a financial professional.
Caitlin notes that it’s possible that accepting disability or long-term care assistance may bar someone from qualifying for employer benefits, so this is one reason why it may be important to discuss with your employer before making any decisions.
4. Reviewing insurance policies
Whom to speak with: a financial advisor, insurance specialist and/or human resources representative at your place of employment.
It’s important for people who live with MG to understand their life and long-term care insurance policies. Speak to your financial advisor or insurance specialist about your current coverage and what options may be available to you. You may want to ask how an MG diagnosis, changes in your MG treatments or end-of-life issues may affect you and your loved ones’ benefits. Caitlin suggests asking your HR representative to see whether you can keep paying into your life insurance when you retire.
For additional assistance, speak to your financial advisor about which Medicare plan is right for you or a spouse with MG and visit the Medicare website. Going on Medicare before you reach age 65 may be an option, depending on your MG symptoms and whether you’re receiving SSA disability benefits. There are many Medicare plans and options to choose from, and out-of-pocket expenses and treatment costs vary by plan.
5. Estate planning
Whom to speak with: a financial advisor or lawyer.
While you’re planning for retirement, this may also be a good time to set up plans for your estate or revisit any existing plans that you may have made in the past. Estate planning helps to ensure your home and other possessions are in order in case of your death. An estate plan may also help manage your finances and healthcare if you become unable to manage them yourself.
When speaking to an attorney who specializes in estate planning, consider asking them about:
- A living will, which states your medical and end-of-life care wishes in writing in the event you’re unable to communicate them
- Power of attorney, which gives the person you name the authority to handle your finances and pay bills and taxes if you become debilitated
- A healthcare proxy, who is someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf
Considering all of your options
Please remember that the considerations above are a guide and are not professional retirement advice. A professional may be able to help answer questions you have about your future planning and offer guidance on the best routes to take based on your unique situation.